Boston University graduate workers, residence life workers and adjunct faculty held an inaugural joint rally and celebration at the George Sherman Union on Oct. 20 about their recently ratified bargaining demands.
The three unions’ bargaining demands called upon the university to bargain in good faith and ensure BU remains a beacon of excellence in education, said Joseph Rinaldi, an adjunct accounting professor at the School of Hospitality Administration.
“Together, we can stand in solidarity, supporting one another’s efforts and strengthening our collective voice to create the change we are all seeking for our students here at the University,” Rinaldi said.
Organized under the Service Employees International Union SEIU 509 chapter, the three unions — BU ResLife Union, BU Graduate Workers Union and BU Part-Time Faculty — started the event in front of the GSU with rally chants led by Joe Guidry, a graduate student in astronomy, followed by three speeches, one from each union, proclaiming their respective demands.
Cameron Edgar, a third-year Ph.D. student in the math department and a graduate worker part of the Graduate Workers Union, said adjunct lecturers strive for real wage gains and a more reasonable workload, ResLife workers advocate for fundamental mental health resources to better support undergraduates living on campus and graduate workers campaign for fair compensation and a fair workload.
“What you will not hear today are the voices of the nearly 19,000 undergraduate students whose $86,363-per-year education is adversely affected directly by BU’s current treatment of all three of the groups standing in front of you today,” Edgar said.
Following the speeches, the unions marched down Commonwealth Avenue to the Office of the President at 1 Silber Way to officially deliver their platforms to the administration, chanting rally cries along the way, such as “BU works because we do.”
Douglas Sears, vice president and chief of staff to the President, met protestors outside of 1 Silber Way, said Casey Grippo, a fourth-year in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Sears told the union workers that the University and the president were committed to good faith bargaining, Grippo said.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley did not respond for comment.
The graduate workers’ fifth bargaining session is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 23 to negotiate the terms of their contract.
With no testing center for students with accommodations, graduate workers bear the burden of finding locations for students to take tests.
While serving as a teaching fellow for an adjunct lecturer, Grippo was forced to administer exams in the study carrels in Mugar Memorial Library, a distracting environment for students attempting to focus on their exams, she said.
One of the adjunct lecturers’ demands is to create a centralized space for students with test accommodations to take exams.
“It’s honestly one of those demands that shows how connected our units are and just how much solidarity between our units is important because their demand deeply affects me and would absolutely make my life better, as well as make their lives better,” Grippo said.
Based on a survey conducted by BU Graduate Workers Union, 93% of BU grad workers are currently rent-burdened.
“Sometimes, I truly just skip a meal to wait until I get home, and that doesn’t benefit me, and it definitely doesn’t benefit my students when I can’t remember certain words because I don’t have the energy,” Grippo said.
Jasmine A. Richardson, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, serves as a ResLife Worker on the bargaining team who worked as an RA in Warren Towers last school year.
Richardson said residence advisors can provide students with taxi vouchers in medical emergencies that don’t require an ambulance. Instead of having to take the MBTA or make an out-of-pocket expense for an Uber, taxi vouchers can provide residents with free transportation to and from hospitals.
“I was never taught that they existed, shown where they are or how to fill them out,” Richardson said. “I asked numerous times and … the only way I found out was a coworker mentioned it … and showed me how to do it.”
ResLife Workers are demanding for empowering their workers through training and development, providing free training and resources for basic life saving interventions without fear of repercussions, according to their union platform.
SEIU 509 created an electronic community support letter, encouraging the BU community to sign their petition and demand the management at BU to negotiate with the three unions in good faith.
“The first step for BU to fulfill its promise of a world-class education to its undergraduates is to demonstrate the same level of commitment to our three unions as we do for our students,” Edgar said.